Food and Nutrition

7 Health Benefits of Raw Garlic That Make It Worth the Stinky Breath

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On the list of pungent-yet-healthy foods (apple cider vinegar shots, onions, tuna), raw garlic tops the list. Besides the obvious concerns (can you say garlic breath and B.O.?), it's not exactly one you often hear about being good for you. One the best ways to reap the benefits of garlic is eating it raw.

Ariana Lutzi, ND, naturopath and nutrition consultant for Bubs Naturals, says garlic is one of the most accessible healthy foods to eat. "Garlic is packed full of nutrients and adds intense flavor to any dish. It's the most potent when used in its raw form," she says.

Is it safe to eat raw garlic?

Besides delivering a nutritional boost, Lutzi says the benefits of raw garlic include kicking nasty infections, too. "Garlic fights all types of infections—fungal, bacterial, parasitic, and viral—regulates blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol, to name a few." Studies show that the optimal amount of raw garlic you should consume a day is roughly one to two cloves to get the most amount of benefits without any undesirable side effects (like body odor or heartburn). Honestly, though, who knew all of these benefits could be packed inside such a small (and smelly) herb?

Health benefits of raw garlic
Photo: Stocksy/Melanie Riccardi

Health Benefits of Raw Garlic

Alejandro Junger, MD, founder of the Clean Program, a 30-day cleanse program endorsed by celebrities like Meghan Markle and Gwyneth Paltrow, encourages people to eat a clove of raw garlic each day while on the cleanse. "[Raw garlic] will help not only to eliminate bad bacteria, yeast, and parasites, but also to regulate blood sugar levels, enhance fat burning, reduce hunger sensations, lower cholesterol, relieve arthritic pain, and reduce bowel gas," writes Dr. Junger in his book Clean.

Here are some other health benefits of the veggie, amplified when raw as cooking dulls some of its nutrient density:

1. Garlic is good for your brain

One benefit of raw garlic is that it's full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, manganese, selenium, vitamin c, iron, potassium, and copper. This powerhouse combination is especially good for cognitive function: Vitamin B6 and magnesium are both linked to boosting mood and improving brain health.

2. It supports a healthy immune system

You have the vitamin C in raw garlic to thank for this one. For a more savory immunity booster than oranges, incorporate some raw garlic into your meals.

3. It's anti-inflammatory

Garlic contains allyl sulfides, an anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting compound that studies have shown to slow the growth rate of cancer cells. Because it's anti-inflammatory, this means it also helps protect the body from free radicals.

4. It's good for your liver

Studies have shown that it can protect the liver from some toxins and help lower blood sugar levels. This helps your body flush out toxins more efficiently, which benefits the entire body overall.

5. Garlic is good for your heart

According to a clinical nutritionist and chiropractor Vikki Petersen, CCN, DC, CFMP, consuming garlic on a regular basis is directly linked to benefitting cardiovascular health. "Garlic has long been known to reduce cholesterol and normalize blood pressure," she says. "Additionally, its anti-inflammatory effects are a big benefit to diminishing risk of our number one killer, heart disease."

6. It may help protect against osteoporosis

With aging, the risk for osteoporosis increases, particularly for women. Dr. Petersen says there is some evidence to suggest that consuming garlic can help protect against it. "Garlic can increase estrogen levels in women entering menopause, a time when bones are most at risk for developing osteoporosis. Some studies also showed it to slow the effects of osteoarthritis," she says. While the preliminary studies are promising, more research needs to be done to confirm this connection.

7. Garlic is good for your skin

While you probably don't want to rub garlic all over your body, eating garlic can benefit your skin from the inside out. "Garlic’s antibacterial and antifungal properties can help acne, and its general anti-inflammatory benefits help improve overall circulation, including bringing nutrients to your skin in a more efficient manner," says Dr. Petersen. "Garlic is Mother Nature’s antibiotic and contains immune-boosting properties due to its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic aspects, all courtesy of the compound allicin that garlic is so rich in." She adds that allicin is also anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants, which is good for the skin.

Watch the video below to learn more benefits of raw garlic:

Side Effects of Raw Garlic

1. Eating garlic can cause mild to moderate physical symptoms

When it comes to incorporating garlic into your diet, Dr. Petersen says there are some side effects to consider. Some people may experience heartburn, burning in the mouth, gas, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.

2. Garlic can have an effect on your body's scent

Body odor is another side-effect of loading up on garlic. But this is typically only an issue when people are eating three to four cloves of raw garlic a day.

3. Consuming raw garlic can cause burning or irritation

Eating raw garlic is not as easy as it sounds. For starters, it can be super intense and even cause a burning sensation once you start chewing it. And Lutzi says other potential side effects include gastrointestinal burning or irritation. "It can produce changes in intestinal flora," she says.

4. It may cause some people to develop a rash

Dr. Petersen says some people may be sensitive to garlic topically, meaning it could negatively affect their skin, causing a rash. If you're sensitive, she recommends wearing gloves when chopping it.

5. Garlic can interact with some medications

People taking certain medications should proceed with caution since raw garlic can potentially react with some drugs, including anticoagulants, antiplatelet, hypoglycemic, and insulin. If you're on other meds it's always a good idea to talk with your doctor before incorporating any kind of supplement or herb (like raw garlic) into your diet.

All of this is to say, experiment with your raw garlic intake. Dr. Petersen says a healthy dose of garlic is two to three cloves a day cooked or a supplement of aged garlic at a dose of 600 to 1,200 milligrams. Go small, and if it seems to agree with your body, that's great. If not, raw garlic just isn't for you—and that's okay. Since the potential side effects of eating raw garlic sound less than ideal, there are (thankfully) lots of different ways you can get all of the benefits of eating raw garlic, without well, having to chew an actual clove of garlic.

How To Use Raw Garlic and Reap the Benefits

One way to make peeled raw garlic go down a bit easier is to slice the clove into thin slices and sandwich them between apple slices, as Dr. Junger suggests in Clean. The apple will help cover up the pungent flavor, and mixing the garlic with another food will make the whole experience a lot more tolerable.

Will I get all the health benefits of eating garlic if I swallow it whole? According to Lutzi, you can still get the health benefits of eating garlic if you swallow it whole. She recommends cutting the clove into four small pieces and swallowing it whole like a pill to avoid the pungent effect of chewing it.

Other ideas for eating raw garlic:

  • Mince a garlic clove and toss into your salad or salad dressing
  • Make garlic toast, like this blogger, by mincing the raw garlic, and then mix with some ghee or butter, and spread on toast
  • Make a ACV garlic tonic (see recipe below)
  • Add to soups or juice with other veggies

Why is it so difficult to eat raw garlic? Of course, we totally understand that even the thought of consuming raw garlic might make you cringe. So, if you really hate the taste but want to reap the benefits of raw garlic, there are garlic extract supplements available, including some that are odorless. And, if you're not quite sold on eating raw (yet), here's an RD-approved garlic cooking tip to get the most anti-inflammatory benefits from every clove.

Dr. Lutzi's Healthy Healing Herbal Tonic With Raw Garlic

Raw garlic
Apple cider vinegar

1. Roughly chop multiple cloves of garlic and add to small mason jar.
2. Fill at least one-fourth of the jar full of chopped garlic. Next, pour in equal parts honey and apple cider vinegar, enough to cover the garlic.
3. Let this mixture sit in a dark pantry or cupboard for at least a week, shaking daily.
4. After a week, strain out the garlic or leave it for a more robust concoction. Take 1 tablespoon daily for immune defense throughout cold and flu season.

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